Hongkongers willing to pay more for greener energy, environment minister insists

Wong Kam-sing comments on the higher price HK Electric consumers will pay after a new, more powerful gas-fired unit is commissioned at its Lamma power station

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 6:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 4:38pm

The majority of people are willing to pay a price for a greener city, Hong Kong’s environment minister said on Saturday, after the government revealed that households on Hong Kong Island and Lamma could expect to pay 7 per cent more for electricity once a new gas-fired generating unit is in place.

The expected price rise is the result of the government’s approval of HK Electric’s construction of the new, more powerful unit at its Lamma power station at an estimated cost of HK$4.1 billion.

The unit will come into operation in 2022, replacing one of the company’s three existing gas units.

The company, which supplies electricity to Hong Kong Island, Ap Lei Chau and Lamma, is also allowed to extend the life of the existing unit, which had been scheduled to expire in 2020, by two years until the new unit is completed.

The other supplier, CLP Power, covers Kowloon and the New Territories, including Lantau and other outlying islands.

“We need to have a reliable and safe power supply,” Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said after a public event. “At the same time we also need to move environmental protection forward at a reasonable price ... Society’s mainstream opinion is clear that most people are willing to pay a reasonable price for environmental protection.”

Electricity bills in Hong Kong to see 1 per cent cut, but lawmakers want more

In a paper submitted to the Legislative Council on Friday, the Environment Bureau said the new unit and the extension of the existing one would help increase the use of gas to around 50 per cent of the total fuel mix by 2020 as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

The cost of purchasing more gas, the construction of the new unit and the maintenance of the existing one will lead to an expected increase of 9.6 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of the current 133.4 cents per kWh by 2022 – a 7.2 per cent increase.

With the new unit, the firm will be able to increase its use of gas from 34 per cent to 55 per cent by 2022.

Dr William Chung Siu-wai, of City University’s environmental policy research unit, said while the fee increase was not drastic, he questioned the urgency of replacing the existing unit. He said many such units could continue to operate normally for many more years after their expiry date.